Our summary of the Explore Offsite Infrastructure 2017 event with notes on the subjects covered.
Yesterday we were lucky enough to attend another excellent Explore Offsite industry event, the Explore Offsite Infrastructure conference. A range of interesting topics were covered, with an emphasis on the latest advances in offsite construction in areas other than building structures. Case studies included large scale iconic bridges, two new Cross Rail stations and the MoJ’s Prison Estates. Here’s a summary of the conference programme with notes on the topics discussed.
Joshua Southern, Associate Director at KPMG, delivered an informative talk on improving productivity in construction. He argued that the UK economy is lagging behind in terms of production compared to many other western economies, however the construction sector in the UK is actually one of the most innovative and productive in the world. As you may expect he highlighted technology as a key factor in improving productivity, suggesting that automation will massively shape the construction industry in the next few decades, and that performance and standards monitoring through new emerging technologies such as drones will increase.
Next up was Dr. Chris Goodier from Loughborough University (and the Deputy Director of The Centre for Innovative and Collaborative Construction Engineering) who discussed his research into offsite construction. He demonstrated an online system that students at Loughborough are currently working on, aimed at developers and their clients. It helps the user decide whether offsite construction is appropriate and cost effective for their construction project.
David Bray and Willie McCormick of Highways England then reviewed how offsite construction can lead to more efficient and affordable road and bridge construction, with a focus on the A14 road works. They gave several examples where costs had been massively reduced by completing the majority of the project offsite in a “flying factory” manufacturing precast concrete panels. They also stressed the benefits of standardisation in offsite construction.
A feeling of excited optimism ran through the room as Phil Wilbraham unveiled impressive plans for the Heathrow expansion project. The key messages behind his presentation were that the government are backing offsite construction, that Heathrow will rely very much on offsite based on the success of T4 and T5, and that decision makers need to commit to offsite construction from the outset of a project in order to reap the most benefit.
Sadly Maggie Brown of EDF Energy was unable to make the conference, but the second half of the morning was filled with two stand out case studies of Cross Rail stations, one precast concrete construction at Custom House and one largely engineered timber construction at Abbey Wood, both equally inspiring in their innovative designs.
Cameron Corsby explained in detail how offsite construction was employed on the majority of the Custom House station which allowed for intricate engineering ensuring that elements such as water pipes and electrical fittings were hidden within the structure.
John Spittle of Wiehag GmbH showed off some photography of the beautiful ‘manta ray’ design at Abbey Wood station, and discussed advances in Cross Laminated Timber designs and new and improved glulam.
After lunch there were talks from Steve Kaye, who outlined the savings and efficiencies made at Anglican Water thanks to carbon cutting measures, and from engineers John Roberts and Philip Robinson who are working on a digital method for modelling bridges. Again the speakers highlighted that future of construction is heading towards increased digitalisation, standardisation and offsite manufacturing.
The afternoon included talks from Paul Newby and Gordon Cullen of SES Engineering Services who worked on the iconic Queensferry crossing. Much of the project was fabricated and installed offsite, and speakers noted the time and cost savings thanks to this method. Stephen Wells and Jaimie Johnston then took to the floor to discuss the MoJ’s Prison Estates Transformation Programme, and how they are utilising digital modelling and offsite manufacturing to drive efficiencies and revolutionise design, also with a real aim of reducing reoffending.
So it’s looking like the future for infrastructure is very much in offsite construction, manufacturing and modularisation. We’re looking forward to seeing what the next year holds and how these innovations in the infrastructure sector of the industry influence the rest of the construction world.
If you didn’t get a chance to visit the ARV Solutions stand then you can catch us at some of the other upcoming industry events next year, take a look at our events page.